Morbidly Beautiful

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Sussex Horrors is an impressive anthology of foggy beaches, windswept piers, eerie lighthouses, and coastal terror at its finest.

Sussex Horrors is a unique anthology featuring only three authors and stories that keep their settings limited to the historic coastal town of Sussex in England. This framework provides ample room for the writers — Jonathan Broughton, Mark Cassell, and Rayne Hall — to have loads of ghastly fun.

While a few of the tales within Sussex Horrors are so brief that it remains difficult for the reader to fully engage, most of the stories are rife with action, spookiness, bloodshed, and seaside terror.

Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall opens the anthology with a tale of bloodthirsty seagulls in the aptly-titled “Seagulls.” Readers might recall that in his seminal film The Birds, Alfred Hitchcock never fully reveals the reason why the birds are attacking and why they have singled out his female protagonist. Hall opts for similar ambiguity in “Seagulls,” which amplifies the suspense and fear for poor protagonist Josie. And much like Daphne du Maurier’s short story “The Birds,” Hall’s tale concludes with the suggestion that these winged attacks are merely the beginning to some greater form of horror.

“The Stealth of Spiders,” by Jonathan Broughton, comes next in the anthology, a gripping story of a disabled woman named Abigail who ventures into her deceased sister’s flat to retrieve a particular item…only to be met with a nightmare world beyond her worst imagining. Broughton has a keen eye for ghastly detail, made all the more stomach-churning by the helplessness that Abigail feels as the story reaches its shocker of an ending.

Jonathan Broughton

Mark Cassell’s “The Rebirth” rounds out the first three stories in Sussex Horrors, and it may very well be the most epic and strangest story of the bunch. In this tale, a fisherman’s egg gives rise to something monstrous and deadly, and the author pulls no punches when it comes to those who will suffer as a result (for example, in an early classroom scene, young children fall victim to an unearthly violence that spares no prisoners).

Cassell weaves together the horror and fantasy elements well here, and “The Rebirth” makes for one of the most entertaining stories in the collection.

Mark Cassell

As mentioned, not every story clicks: Broughton’s “You Have One Message” is an all-too-brief (and familiar) cautionary tale about technology gone wrong, while Hall’s “Normal, Considering the Weather” struggles to use the epistolary form to generate suspense, dread, or character development.

As Sussex Horrors nears its middle portion of tales, Cassell stuns again with “Demon Alcohol,” a fast-paced tale of a creature attempting to destroy a young couple — a creature who thrives off of human flesh and uses it to increase its strength and power. The imagery is all sorts of gooey, sticky, and bloody, making for a rollercoaster-ride of a story.

In the quick “Double Rainbows,” Hall takes advantage of the coastal environment with the setting of a lighthouse and a menacing tide. Protagonist Gerard believes it might just be possible to love two women at the same time despite the complications such a choice might cause…but his philandering ways might be no match for the unforgiving ocean and another character who sets a diabolical plan in motion.

Sussex Horrors

Overall, Sussex Horrors is a worthy anthology; the three authors know their stuff, and they fully realize the setting in order to take advantage of all that it has to offer in the realm of suspense and horror.

The collection was published in early 2018 by Herbs House, and is available at all online retailers.


20 Records

  1. on March 19, 2018 at 3:16 pm
    Mark Cassell wrote:

    Thanks for hosting this. And thanks for the kind words!


  2. on March 20, 2018 at 2:11 pm
    Rayne Hall wrote:

    Thanks for reviewing our anthology. Mark, Jonathan and I had fun combining our twisted visions of the real Sussex. 🙂

    • on March 22, 2018 at 5:39 am
      Ralitsa Stoyanova wrote:

      I’ve never been to Sussex but it seems like a scary place already! Can’t wait to read the stories. Rayne, did the film “The Birds”by Alfred Hitchcock inspired you for your story?

      • on March 23, 2018 at 8:49 am
        Rayne Hall wrote:

        Ralitsa: Sussex isn’t scarier than other places. We horror writer simply notice the sinister (or potentially sinister) parts and play with them in our imagination. A romance writer might dwell more on the romantic beauties, which are also plentiful. (I visit and enjoy the romantic spots, too… I just focus my imagination on the sinister bits for my stories.

        My story ‘Seagulls’ wasn’t inspired by Hitchcock’s film. The inspiration came from seagulls sitting on my windowsill, looking beautiful but greedy. I knew that seagulls are aggressive animals, and kind-hearted naive tourists feed them. So I was eating breakfast, looking out of the window, and asking myself a writer’s favourite question: “What if…” 🙂

  3. on March 20, 2018 at 4:10 pm
    Vladimir Egalite wrote:

    Personally, I think that true horror stories should contain the most horrible fear – fear of the unknown. The more tension the story builds around the mysterious “something”, the better. Knowing from the beginning that all you need to fear is birds or spiders ruins it. What do you think?

    • on March 23, 2018 at 8:54 am
      Rayne Hall wrote:

      I think fear of the unknown plays a role in every horror story. Even if a story is about something we know – say, spiders or birds – then there are plenty of of ‘unknown’ factors: what do those birds want? what will those spiders do? Are the spiders poisonous? Where do the spiders come from? How sharp are the birds’ beaks?
      I find that the most effective horror fiction combines the known with the unknown, the familiar with the unfamiliar.
      What would be scarier than something we *think* we know turning into something we no longer know? What if something as innocuous, familiar and safe like a bedside table lamp or a pet rabbit suddenly turned dangerous or evil, not known at all?

  4. on March 20, 2018 at 10:16 pm
    Shenae wrote:

    In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have read that right before going to bed *hides face* Based on this article, I can imagine just how gripping these stories must be. I really like the idea of basing a set of stories on a single location especially when there is such a stark contrast between the setting and the stories. Who would’ve thought of a seagull with a vendetta in a place associated with cotton candy?

  5. on March 21, 2018 at 8:16 am
    Crina Vasile wrote:

    This anthology makes me start wishing to visit this part of the U.K. Especially “Seagulls”. Strange how a horror book could lead to increasing tourism to a region.

    • on March 23, 2018 at 8:55 am
      Rayne Hall wrote:

      I think it’s unlikely that our book will increase tourism to the area. More likely, it will inspire people who live there or who visit the region to look at it with different eyes. 🙂

  6. on March 21, 2018 at 10:45 am
    Aimee wrote:

    The sea is inherently scary. Who knows what’s down there? (And seagulls are nasty creatures.) This sounds like a cool anthology. I’ll check it out when I get the chance.

    • on March 23, 2018 at 8:58 am
      Rayne Hall wrote:

      I agree, Aimee. Perhaps not knowing what’s down there makes the sea inherently scary. Scientists have found ‘monsters’ deep down that they didn’t know existed, or had believed extinct.
      Also, it’s possible for larger creatures to live in water than either on land or in the air. So there might be all sorts of mutated animals, supposedly extinct dinosaurs, giant squid, sea snakes and more lurking in the water, waiting to come to the surface… and who knows what will happen to the hapless human foolish enough to seek them out? 🙂

  7. on March 22, 2018 at 5:28 am
    Jonathan Broughton wrote:

    I like taking the ordinary and the everyday and shifting them or changing their perspective so that they alter from the commonplace to the extraordinary. I think when what we take for granted becomes changed in ways we can’t understand, it’s not only unsettling, but can be very scary, too. Thanks for your review Morbidly Beautiful 🙂

  8. on March 22, 2018 at 7:05 am
    Tudor wrote:

    What I think to be the strong point of the book is exactly the three different styles that combine to create a unique feel. The writers complement each other very well, giving the anthology another level. While reading, you find yourself going at different speeds, experienc